Villanova Catches A Break

Maybe several of them, but none more important than the rim-rattling reverse lay-up from Dwayne Anderson that decided to drop through the hoop just after the horn sounded in Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

By that margin, the Wildcats beat Marquette, 76-75, and advanced to the semifinal round against Louisville on Friday night. Villanova has now won its first game in the Big East tournament for six straight years, which is even harder than it sounds.

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On the possession previous to the game-winning shot, the Wildcats might have caught another break, judging by the Ron Cortes photo of Dante Cunningham's block on Jerel McNeal. Photos can be deceiving, but it looks as if Cunningham might have gotten just a little bit of McNeal along with the ball. Just a little bit.

The refs can't see everything, although they certainly tried in this game, sending the two teams to the foul line for a total of 66 free-throw attempts. That made it a game without much flow and without a clear resolution until the very end. Marquette stayed in the game, and scored 75 points, despite making just 16 field goals. The Eagles scored 33 points at the line, so maybe they got enough chances there and didn't need another.

Louisville was scarily impressive in its quarterfinal win over Providence. Can Villanova deal with the Cardinals' threesome of Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and Samrado Samuels? They did so during the regular season in the Wachovia Center, a one-point Louisville win that could easily have gone the other way. Holding them down again is a big order.

It might be that a credible game against Louisville will solidify Villanova's spot as a No. 3 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament and, better yet, get the Wildcats a home weekend to begin the tourney. Earning first and second round games at the Wachovia Center would be a huge bonus, and that might be what is on the line Friday against Louisville. Villanova doesn't necessarily have to win, but the Wildcats might have to be in the game all the way through.

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